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Renaissance Dogs | Pups Imitate Art

Renaissance Dogs | Pups Imitate Art

        The digital age has marked the dawn of what I've named the Doggy Renaissance, a fuzzy rebirth transforming house hippos, sausage dogs, and furry gnomes into an Instagram gallery of attention thieves. Gone are the "just a dog" days (FYI, you're just a human now): enter the mutt millennium. If you have a snoot and a pair of paws there's a 99.9% chance that you tout a clever handle like @sirfluffsalot, talent agent and influencer posse in tow.
       And so it's only fitting that this band of masterly doggy celebs has taken on art itself, emulating fine art paintings with unassuming props and Paint-Me-Like-One-Of-Your-French-Girls-esque poses. I can only sit still long enough to model a dog of honor announcement sign, so I commend these pups for what appear to be feats of meditative yoga turned Renaissance-style art. What comes next is a scroll fit for the Met, so I'd propose you don on a cozy super soft fleece I Love Your Dog hoodie, pour a glass of Surely Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Rosé, and enjoy the show. 


1 | The Man With The Glacier Eye, 1928 By Dörte Clara Wolff vs. The Man With The Glacier Eye, 2021

The Man With the Glacier Eye

       An upper working class Jewish woman, Berlin native Dörte Wolff achieved success from 1927 to 1930 with gouache reveries of the privileged class, some of which being published in the German satirical magazine ULK. A lover of expressing herself via watercolor in a stream of conscious manner, what she dubbed "unconscious paintings," Dörte transported viewers to another world, one dominated by angular faces, moody scenes, and a sense that the rich were almost staring through to your soul in decadent paint.

       The recreation is, in my doggy eyes, even better than the original, as I cannot for the life of me figure out how Finn, a border collie famous for recreating popular works, kept that white patch poised on his eyelid long enough for a photo. I can only surmise that off to the right, the direction in which he's gazing, there's a television switched on to display a replay of dog television's finest: this year's puppy bowl.


2 |  Dogs Playing Poker, 1903 by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge  

Dogs Playing Poker
       Dogs Playing Poker is a pop culture icon known to grace the walls of man caves and chachki laden bars across America, so I didn't envision this familiar masterpiece's origin to be from a Quaker living the early 1900s, a time where such a meme-worthy image wasn't referred to as a meme, nor retweeted and liked by blog dogs such as myself. 
       Publishing company Brown & Bigelow commissioned the image amongst 15 others for promotional items. Viewing the playful set in its entirety, one sees humor played out masterfully with cleverly painted details, from a card hidden under the table between stubby Bulldog toes to an ambush of police pups donning domed caps and wielding batons, an authoritative bunch who confront poker playing doggy hooligans, one of whom, aghast with furrowed eyebrows, is smoking a cigarette. The set brings to life a rich story of the upper class cast by canines whose lives seem to be dictated by banal games, conspicuous displays of wealth, and alcohol consumption. 
       While the recreation is uncanny (he got four dogs to not just sit, but around a freakin' table!), the only discrepancy is that *surprise* us dogs are thumbless and can't grip a set of cards between our paws like Coolidge's pups could. It's a shame we can't because, well, we'd whoop you humans in a game of Texas Holdem, Barkley & Wagz beer can cups in paws, especially if a pile of beggin' strips were the pot.


Self Portrait with Small Monkey by Frida Kahlo    
       An emblematic figure in the world of fine art, Frida Kahlo, a female painter hailing from Mexico, very literally intertwines herself with natural and spiritual figures native to her home country in this piece: her pet spider monkey, Mexican hairless dog (do you think he gets cold?!) Señor Xoloti, and an ancient idol artifact encircling her, a gleaming gold ribbon drawing the patriotic scene together.
       Staring through elegant paint with a piercing gaze, the foursome impose statements of a spiritual and political nature onto the viewer: one being that the spiritual world is forever entwined with the natural, the other being that a Mexican revolution driven by progressive ideals is ahead. Seriousness is juxtaposed with a folksy air which draws the viewer in to a culture teeming with color and fiercely held beliefs.
       The 2020 recreation, fittingly named Frida Quarantine, makes its own unique statement by expressing that while humans and pups may have had to face social isolation, the extra quality time humans got with us doting pets served as a pawsitive slant to the ordeal. And so this charming little hairless pup seems to say, "As long as I'm spending time with my human, I support her in all her affairs, even if it means doing weird stuff like sporting a Helga style unibrow and a boa made of yellow rope. Oh, and when do I get to play with these stuffies?!"
Left: Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665, Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands. Right: recreation by Lacey Quinn, 2020, image courtesy of the artist.
       Another iconic matron of fine art, the Girl with a Pearl Earring is unlike other artistic portrayals in that she is a tronie, what the Dutch conceived as a non-specific character or "type of person": a daydream of a prototypical female contemporary to the age Johannes Vermeer, her maker, lived in. She is a masterpiece of light and form who just surpasses the beauty of me in booties, a bow tie, and "Lil' Nugget" dog t-shirt (kidding). Ok, I'll get back to being serious.
       The Girl with a Pearl Earring is a member of an elite club as she is one of only 36 works that Vermeer produced, endowing her with the magical rarity of being the creation of a non-prolific master. She exists suspended in space and time with no background to set her in an exact point and place, making her both mysterious but obvious too, as she is a certain kind of woman with a specific sense of style. 
       The pup version of this pearly girl appears to have even more of an elusive air. Will she poop in your shoes? Is she guilty in the mysterious case of the missing sock? We're all left to wonder if she's a good girl or a bad mamma jamma. But upon staring at this portrait for 5 minutes in the style of human museum goers, I've come to a determination. She's neither a good girl nor a bad girl, a shoe pooper nor a non-shoe pooper (I couldn't think of a word for it, ok?). She's whoever you want her to be, a fuzzy tronie whose cuteness is all that matters. 
Leonardo Da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine Recreated by Elena Kolacheva
       It's been recently revealed that Leonardo DaVinci's monument of fine art, the Lady with an Ermine, wasn't even originally intended to display a ferret-like creature at all. The Lady had three phases, the first hands unadorned, the second grasping a small grey ermine, and the last presenting a hefty boi clothed in white fur. The woman at the center of such phase-work was preeminent mistress Cecilia Gallerani, a beguiling figure entangled in an extra-marital affair with Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan.
       The dame is pictured with a contemplative gaze and an ever so slight smile, almost as if her eyes are fixed on the duke himself. Spindly fingers grace a sizable ermine as if the animal is a living fur accoutrement whose presence conveys a privileged air, fitting since the King of Naples was known to have gifted one to her lover Ludovico. Following her death, the painting was misplaced only to reappear in 1800s Poland and, in subsequent years, be painted over to the point that its backdrop fell to a pitch black.
       Elena Kolacheva's rework of the scene is transformative, turning the litigious ladylove into a good girl who's just trying to shield her stuffed animal from mischievous kitty paws. Unlike the Pup with a Pearl Earring, there's no dispute whether she's a do-gooder or a shoe-pooper, and one is only left to wonder if she got the treats she deserved.
       It's no walk in the Ren Fair to metamorphose into a Renaissance Dog, and it's not just because this metaphorical festival doesn't promise a gnaw on turkey legs. Assembly is required, and one must have the thumbs and patience to bring such an involved project to its completion. So once you've engaged in some mindful meditation and have sourced a creative human, you can be ready to, with my help, transform yourself into a fine art masterpiece. To make this as simple as possible, we're going to tackle a work with five essential parts: a black hat, green apple, white shirt, red tie, and black jacket. Behold: the Son of the Man by Rene Magritte  (below)
The Son of the Man by Rene Magritte
       To take on the essence of this surrealist classic, start by forcing your human to take you on a long romantic walk to the water. Don't feel too pressured to find the perfect stone brick wall guarding a moody oceanfront scene: any plain body of water will do. And if you're unlucky enough to only have murky brown lakes and creeks at your disposal, masking on Photoshop is your friend. 
       Next is your attire, which starts with squeezing into a Barkley & Wagz classic black and white dog raglan, a cozy & soft 100% cotton wardrobe staple that we can print virtually anything on, including the image of a red tie you'll need printed on the front. Slip on a Carhartt Black Chore Coat and leave the front open to reveal your custom red tie doggy t-shirt.
       And if you're like, "There's no way you'll find a black top hat for dogs," Baxter Boo's like, "Jokes on you fren. We've got a super strapping black bowler hat and it's only 5 bucks!" For the last and final element, simply have your human grab a green apple from Wegman's and (here's the hard part) hold it in your mouth for longer than 5 seconds. 
       Once you've gathered all the proper ingredients for this surrealist master-rework, do as Tim Gunn would say and, "Make it work!"
       My friend Bean followed the guidance above & did his own rendition of the Son of the Man. Behold: the Son of the Floof (below)
Goldendoodle Recreates "The Son of the Man" by Rene Magritte
       If you found this post inspiring & took it upon yourself to join the Renaissance Dog club and recreate a famous work of art, please tag @barkleyandwagz on Instagram with hashtag #renaissancedog. I woof you, friends!